By Adele Chapin Posted January 17, 2012, 4:40 PM EST
WASHINGTON An estimated 85,000 attendees visited the 19th run of the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday and Sunday at the Washington Convention Center, where 200 exhibitors provided health care information, free health tests and screenings, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of activities like Zumba to get visitors moving.
The event is known for giving back to the community with its free services, including blood pressure, body fat, glaucoma, and diabetes screenings. “This event provides literally millions of dollars of free health tests and screenings to the community,” said Jill Palmer, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Network Events, which has produced the expo for 18 of the show’s 19 years.
The event continues to evolve over the years, and this year's expo had more attendees than ever before, NBC4 producers said. “This is our 19th event, and I think we keep getting smarter,” said Jackie Bradford, president and general manager of NBC4. Lessons learned from last year include enclosing the expo’s “Today’s Health Forums” stage and seating with glass walls to improve the acoustics for health panel discussions, and incorporating Zumba into the opening ceremony instead of just a ribbon cutting. “It gives it a little more energy so that those watching the show at home might get the motivation to come down,” Bradford said.
The new designated “Zumba Zone” with all-day free classes joined popular activities from past years like rock climbing, a golf challenge, and a soccer clinic. NBC’s Go Healthy Step-a-Thon was another new component, equipped with step machines that simulated climbing the steps at the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. The exhibit also included a photo booth connected to a computer so guests could email their photos or post them on Facebook.
“Our exhibitors know to make it more interactive,“ Bradford said. “The more interactive or the more you can give away, the more successful it is.” Attendees lined up for AT&T’s texting and driving simulation, where they got behind the wheel and attempted to steer in a simulation while texting on their own phones, with a computer scoring their efforts. And at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s exhibit, massage therapists gave mini-massages, while a licensed nutritionist provided tips on portion sizes.